Sunday, January 26, 2014

Australia Day, survivor day...

G'day all!

(in which I get political, unusual for me)

Every year on the 26th of January, we celebrate Australia Day.

By celebrate, I mean we get a day off, usually attached to the weekend if at all possible and have a barbie and a booze up.  That is the classic Australia Day.

For some people, it is Invasion Day.  For others, it is Survivor Day.  The indigenous don't have much to celebrate.

For me?  This year I have a feeling of dismay.  I'm so disappointed in the direction my country seems to be heading.  We've been an inclusive society for all of my life and longer, though the first immigrants breaking the White Australia policy found things pretty tough (and I'm not even talking about the Asian refugees of the 60s and 70s - I'm talking the Greek and Italians who came to Australia after WWII.  Yep they are white but the wrong colour white - not the lily white skins of Poms who burned red in the fierce Australian sun).

We are turning into a society of haves and have nots (there's always been a bit of that but now the gap is widening), and I really don't know what to do about it.  There's enough loud, racist and hating mouths that they can be heard over and above the moderate majority of the population, and it seems some of them are now in government.  I didn't vote at the last election - being out of the country means I don't have to vote (voting is compulsory in Australia but if you are out of the country you may not have the means to get and return a postal vote in time).  My vote would not have changed the way my electorate voted anyway.  I'm on GetUp!'s email list, I add my name to petitions and that probably means I'm on other watch lists, but well what am I meant to do?  Sit back and see all I hold dear about my society turn into petty, mean, closed-mind gimme gimme gimmes, stuff you, I'm alright Jack, I'm better than you crap?  I add my little voice to those that stand up for what we believe in.  And surely if you've been reading for a while, you would know I'm a latte sipping leftie bleeding heart liberal (except I don't drink coffee or milk so leave out the latte thanks!).

I was raised with the idea of a "fair go" - giving everyone a chance.  It is  different to the American ideal of bootstrapping yourself because there isn't the implication of if you don't make it, you weren't working hard enough or you are dumb or stupid.  Australians generally recognise that there isn't a level playing field, that some people have blind luck and others rotten luck, but everyone should be given the same opportunities, a decent (free) education, low cost/free medical care, be able to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads even if things have gone down the crapper, that sort of thing.  It doesn't always work and our indigenous population mostly isn't even on that playing field but it is something to strive towards.  What we have, we share.  We look after each other and we look after others the best we can too.

We took thousands of boat people in and gave them a home in the 60s and 70s.  The suburb next to mine at home was a major migrant intake point, the place where the newcomers learned English and how to survive in this strange new place.  They bought homes there and built businesses and sent their children to Australian schools and now their grandchildren are growing up Aussie, just like the kids and grandkids and great-grandkids of the Greeks and Italians from the 50s did, as did the descendants of the English who settled here.  They helped make Australia what it is, along with the government policy of the day of multicultural Australia.

But now we treat boat people like rubbish, flotsam.  I find it sad that my government's actions may be breaking the Geneva Convention.  What we have we'll keep for us.  We're alright, Jack, but you can nick off back to wherever you came from.  We don't want your type here.  There's not enough to share.  At the very same time we have a government that wants to keep the economy growing growing growing and the population to keep growing (even though we probably cannot sustain a population that is heading for 25 million in our vast, dry land) to keep driving the economy.

I guess I'm a bit sad about broken dreams.  Many of the things that I hold dear probably never really existed.  They're sorta like the idea of Truth, Justice and the American Way and about as real as Superman.  It's a nostalgia for a place that probably never was, but it is what I'd like to believe my country could be.


This is a place that I'll do a lot of sitting
over the next while.

Apart from that, life continues.  We've had a few sunny days again, which has been good to recharge the old solar batteries - I need sun like flowers need both sun and rain.  It'll be back to winter blahs again this week though and it might even get cold enough to snow in a week or so, but we'll wait and see.  It better not get too cold - I've just planted a bunch of what we used to call polyanthus but are really called primulas along the front path way.  I'll have to whip out and get some of that mesh stuff to cover the plants with if it looks like being frosty for long.  I'm just desperate for Spring to get here.  Less than two months now - by March we'll have lots of things starting to bloom, bulbs and stuff.  They are already on the rise.

Someone else's tulips

I've been knitting like a madwoman on a new top for me.  I spent two days just working out what colours to knit it in - it uses a lot of colours and stripes them in interesting ways.   My first three choices weren't working, so I did quite a bit of frogging and starting again and frogging and starting again, but now I'm fairly satisfied with how it is going.  Pics later when there's more to show.

Nope, have this sideways pic.  The deeper green
was too lightweight for the aqua and white yarn,
so I'm using the blue/mauve with the aqua/white.

Our plans for the house are changing pretty much minute by minute.  We are getting so much advice from so many quarters and every different source says  "No, don't do that, this would be better" that we have no idea what to do.  There's so many choices!  We can't even get the garage done at the moment as we are waiting for the owners for next door to get back to us with permission to alter the garage.  Why do they need to give permission?  Because our garage exceeds the 35' from the centre of the alleyway rule by 1'8", and to change that portion that is over the 35' rule, we have to have an agreement with the next door neighbours, and they are overseas.  If it was on the other side, we'd have the agreement done in a flash as they own the place and live in it.  Ah bureaucracy, you gotta love it.

The sun is moving northwards again.

But we do have a nicely lit up during the day lounge room now.  The two solatubes are in and they make a big difference.  On sunny days they look like fluorescent lights and they throw a heap of light into the living room even on dull days.

Solatube emitting light!

Because I am knitting from stash, I was bad and bought some yarn to replace some of the stash.  It is pretty pretty self-striping yarn.  How could I resist a yarn called Vulcan, even if it is more the colours of the inferno than the other Vulcan, plus some other yarn that will be lovely to knit with too....

Pretty pretty sideways yarn.

So in a nutshell, life continues.  We putter along, getting there eventually, even when we're not sure where there is ;-)

The back deck comes through again.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

It's green, very green

G'day all!

Oh I live in busy times at the moment.  I seem to run from one thing to the next.

A couple of weekends ago - it is already a couple of weeks ago! - we trawled out to Vashon Island to visit a friend and also see my quilt hanging up in Island Quilter.

Nice, eh?  Even if I'm not going to wrangle Blogger into displaying the pictures nicely.

I made the back (the grey and green version) first.  I liked it but not as much as I thought I would.  It is too grey and we see enough of grey in Seattle.

Then I had another go, this time with white.  I also changed up the blocks - in the grey version, all the blocks are surrounded by the opposite colour and then feed into the same colour.  In the white version, the edge ones float - they don't have a border.  That looks pretty cool, eh?  It makes it look completely different.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out.  It is the largest quilt I've made.  And I made it all on my little sewing machine (it doesn't feel so little when I have to lug it around... sigh).

If you want to go and see it displayed, you'll have to hurry up.  I think it comes down at the start of February and I get it back (lord knows what I'll do with it then...).  It is hanging at Island Quilter, as part of the Seattle Modern Quilt Guild's Binary Challenge.  Island Quilter is on Vashon Island, and is only accessible by ferry, boat or possibly microlight plane.  I wouldn't advise swimming across the Sound ;-)

I would love to share more pics of my daily happenings but Blogger now has decided not to talk to picasa and tells me I have not taken any pics on my phone since the 7th of January.  It lies, I tell you, as my friends on a certain social network will know.  I shall have to try an old fashioned way of inputting photos and...  it worked!

Did I ever share this?  I love it.  Resharing is good :-)
I started making myself a pair of gloves, of course from the tip of the fingers down.  They look fascinating in this pic but I may not be knitting on them much at the moment because

Fingies!  Mmm, cashmere blend.

I have knitted 1.5 socks and started on another sock as well.  One can't have too many socks....   I even got to sit outside for a little while today and knit in the sun - it's been foggy a lot recently but it cleared for a couple of hours and it was lovely sitting out on the back deck.

I've almost rounded the heel on this one now.
I've discovered that the lymphedema sleeves I am paying over $80 for are the wrong compression level for me - no wonder I have issues.  I am supposed to wear the sleeves when I exercise, when I'm using my arm for lots of things like say painting walls or lifting things.  The sleeves I've bought are too lightweight and are about as good as no sleeve at all.  I'm pretty grumpy with the place I got them from - I thought I needed class 2, they said the sleeve are class 2 but they aren't - they are class 1 but size II.  The 1s and 2s vs Is and IIs makes it hard to remember which should be which.  Over $160 down the gurgler.  I'm yet to have words with them.

We've been wrangling with the planning department.  That is a story for another day.  It did help me get a lot of sock knitted.  I knitted from the start of the pattern to the gusset increases in the time we sat waiting for a permit that we couldn't get.  Yet.

I've also found if I lift anything heavier than a few kilos, my voice goes.  It seems to be related to strain in my neck.  It is never perfect but sometimes it is better than others.  It is a real pain in the butt, so to speak, because I am capable of lifting somewhat more than say 5 kilos (11 lb) but I shouldn't and I forget.

I have some quilting stuff I need to do before the end of the month, when I go to a quilting weekend on Vashon.  I'm actually a bit terrified about going away for a weekend with a bunch of quilters - I don't really know many of them very well, I have stupid food challenges and I'm a bit shy.  Really.  My sewing machine is loud and not at all fashionable or expensive.  Plus I'm still making weird noises when I'm asleep (some might say I make them when I'm awake as well) and I think we are sleeping in dorms and I need to take along a mattress pad to sleep on and gosh, it is all scary!  LOL 

It will be fine and it will be fun when I get there.  It's the getting out the door part that is hard.


Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Two years

G'day all!

We've now been in Seattle for two years.

Wow.  Just wow.  Two years.  Where has the time gone?

The other day I was thinking about how I've become a lot more confident at navigating my way around the place.  Even just yesterday I (ahem) decided to try a different way to get to the "local" IKEA and ignored the way I've been using that maps recommended.  I did get there, with only one u-turn and that was because that particular exit of the interstate only let you turn right, not left.  The rest of it I made up as I went along.  It helps that many but not all of the roads around here are on a grid, even the ones with proper names rather than numbers.

The freedom machine, first on the ferry!

These days, I only use maps when I haven't been to a place before or am going to it from a different place or need very very specific details of where the place is.  Sometimes roads are one way only and that can make things extra fun.  It is nice not to rely on technology to get me somewhere, instead relying on my own brain.  I think it is important to be able to do this.  Memorisation of routes is a useful skill.  I was surprised how much I remembered of driving around Fort Collins in our visit back there in August, and a couple of years ago the trip back to San Jose was also surprisingly easy to navigate.

So what else has changed in the last two years? 

Well, we've become home owners, again - now we have two mortgages, not just one!  Yay?

Cool view on the way to Vashon Island.
I already miss the sun.

I've learned to walk around in the rain without an umbrella.  Sounds dumb?  I wouldn't go out in the rain without a brolly in Melbourne or Sydney but these days brollies are too much hassle, even if they do mostly keep the rain off my glasses.  I just trudge around half-blind in my big insulated rain coat with the hood up.  I still keep an umbrella in the car for emergencies but everywhere I go at the moment I'm either wearing my big purple raincoat or the blue one.  Occasionally I've been tempted to wear both.

I've learned the value of layers.  I was hoping to wear my woollies more often but I seem to be attached to my microfleece layering tops again.  Oh well.

I've also learned the value of nice, warm boots for trudging around in the rain.

A friend's little vineyard

I do seem to be fixated on rain at the moment, possibly because that is all we've had for the last day and is all that is in the forecast.  It is normal winter weather for here.  It could be a lot worse - we could be freezing with horrible ice storms.

Today I am also fixated on ouchies - I have new rehab exercises to do.  eg.  Stand with your back to a wall.  Make sure your core is braced.  Raise your arms "hands in the air" style and press them against the wall.  Push them overhead, keeping your forearms and hands against the wall.  Do this 20 times.  (It's like doing a snow angel only you are standing up against a wall.)  It sounds easy, doesn't it?  Go and try, I'll be here waiting.  (Hint - DH tried and he's a lot stronger than me, and he couldn't do them.)  After over a year of doing various bits of rehab, I'm a lot stronger than I was and even though I've got more muscle and haven't been able to do anything aerobic for months, I weigh about ten pounds less than I did when we moved here.  I guess that shows what using your largest muscles can do for you.

This burger clearly knew not what lay in store,
or maybe it did, which is why it is a bit crazed.
As long as it wasn't from mad cow disease....
We're developing friendships that are as good as any we've had anywhere else, even though we don't necessarily have a shared background.  We've been to a wedding (still thrilled about that!), shared meals, shared celebrations.  It is good to have friends.  Thanks, chaps!

A hasty shot of sunset on Vashon
 It has been one helluva ride and with any luck the fun will continue.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Out with the old... 2013

G'day all!

I remember years ago thinking how old I would be in the year 2000.  It amazed me - I'd be quite old!

Well it is 2014 now and umm, I'm afraid to tell my younger self that I'm now even older.  A whole 14 years older than I was in 2000.  Am I any wiser?  I'm not sure.  I'm less ranty (believe it or not, especially if you drive with me in badly behaved traffic or when I'm uptight, like driving a whopping big moving truck (whopping big to me - a fourteen footer)) and more likely to bite my tongue instead of opening my big trap and saying something tactless/offensive.  I am still happy to say the word toilet though....  I am definitely more wrinkly and somewhat more scarred.  But I'm still here and that is what really counts.

So 2013, where did you go?  People say that the years go faster as you get older and I'm quite frankly worried about that.  It's starting to seem that all I need to do is turn around and a new year is upon me.  Soon I'll be dizzy from the years whizzing by.

It's mostly been a fairly good year.  There's been some ups and downs but we've got new friends, we've seen some amazing sights, we bought a house...

Hmm, let's do a recap of the highlights of the year.  Links will be random!  Formatting will be even more random - it turns out that most font features (headers, size, bold and italics randomly) don't work with my current font.  YAY!

January 2013

We went to Portland, Oregon, on the train.  We had a lovely sunny break there - Seattle had been wrapped in fog for nearly two weeks and after a while, fog gets dull.  Very dull (just like it is outside at the moment).   Anyway, Portland was delightful.  We walked and walked and walked and walked and caught the light rail and visited Powell's and Knit Purl and a good time was had by all.  But not at the restaurant we went to that had to be the only place in hippy granola crunchy Portland that didn't cater for gluten- and dairy-free people or vegetarians or vegans. I finished an Elfe.

One of the many very cool bridges in Portland.
February 2013

Apparently nothing happened in Feb except I knitted DH a hat and some socks and did some work.  I do remember being rather excited at the evidence of Spring coming - the buds started swelling on various plants.  We went to the flower and garden show downtown.

ZOMG!  Crocuses!
March 2013

Spring finally came.  It couldn't come quickly enough for me.  Plus I finished some socks for me me me!  I worked, went to Emerald City Comicon (which was vaguely entertaining but I'm too far out of the comic loop now to realise any significance to most of it but the costumes were amusing!) and apparently did nothing else for the whole month.  Oh, I did do one more thing - I made a quilt for my brother.

Quilt.  Bright, non?

Cherry blossoms!  SPRING!  Yay! (Umm. from April...)

April 2013

Things really started hopping in April.  We had a visit from a googly friend, Spring really started springing, we got to wear tshirts without jackets/jumpers for the first time in months, we went whale watching, and I went on a knitting retreat that was absolutely one of the top experiences of my life.

Lime Kiln lighthouse, San Juan Island
Skagit Valley Tulip festival.  Eye popping!

May 2013

I knitted myself a Norwegian Fana cardigan just in time for Syttende Mai (17 May, Norway's Constitution Day.  It was a crazy undertaking - I left myself not very long to do it but I got it done in time, yay me!  We went to San Juan Island and had a lovely time on island.  We did a trip down the the Columbia River Gorge.  I took lots too many pictures of flowers and went on a yarn crawl.  The weather was unseasonably warm.

Yay me!  Less than a month to knit
and it had to be cut to make it work!

Columbia River from a big rock.
June 2013

June came too quickly and left rather quickly as well.  My highlight from June, and one of the highlights of the year, was doing the Naked Bike Ride.   I had never done anything like it before - I've never skinny dipped or done anything the slightest bit nuddy at all.  I don't even like wearing bikinis - body issues, moi?  I'm happy enough to show it off fully clothed - a layer of lycra is enough - but not bare flesh.  We had a visitor.  I did a bit of quilting and knitting for others.  (I am ashamed to say the baby stuff didn't get sent - it is still waiting cos the first baby is a big lad and was too big for the vest by the time I thought to ask for the address...).

Not many clothes on this lot!

Roses were fantastic this year :-0

July 2013

July was berry season.  I bought lots and lots and lots of berries.  I made jam with some of the berries and froze the rest.  Lots of berries.  I've been eating the jam steadily and there are still lots of berries in the freezer.  Maybe I should may some berry (bubbly!) pies.  We went to a lovely wedding, truly lovely, had another visitor and we went up Mt Rainier twice.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love Mt Rainier?  No?  Surely you jest!  I also spent more than a week in tie dye - I have lots of it and now that I have a house, I can have even more of it!  I can haz all teh colourz!  YAY!

A few berries.

Nisqually Valley, Mt Rainier

August 2013

August brought both fantastic and bad.  We went back to Colorado (actually Wyoming but we got to stay in Colorado for a few nights).  I always said I'd go back to Fort Collins one day, well that day was at the start of August.  It was fantastic, and it also brought closure.  I got to visit places that were (and remain) well loved, I got to watch the crawdads again in Spring Creek, I visited some old friends... saw old sights and took millions of photos (not quite but close).  It was glorious.  Later in the month, I managed to trip over a gap in the pavement and ripped my hands up brutally, somehow avoided getting them infected (big sigh of relief) and then I developed massive breathing problems and a really husky voice.  I still managed to get some knitting and quilting done - I had to do something, anything to distract myself from my woes.  We rode the Ducks for DH's birthday and I at least had a ball.

Test garden, Fort Collins

Trail Ridge Road
Rocky Mountain NP

September 2013

I achieved glottal incompetence.  Yay me!  My breathing and voice issues were diagnosed - a paralysed vocal cord.  Treatment?  Wait and see.   Boo hiss.  My three year breast cancer check up came back clear, YAY!  I couldn't do talk like a poirate day as my ARRRR!s sounded like ahhh!s, rather nancy-boy really.  I knitted a lot - not being able to exercise much does that to you.  We had visitors - some of my family visited.  It was lovely to see them, pity about my voice and breathing issues.  We went up Rainier again but I couldn't go far as I really really just could not get enough breath.  I thought I'd die of a heart attack.  We got told our rent was rising $500 a month.   And the season turned autumnal - no long Indian summer this year!

Paradise Lodge plus Tatoosh Range.

Family at the locks.

October 2013

It was most definitely autumn.  Pity about the short days and the increasing coolth because the rest was pretty good.  More visitors!  DH's parents came to visit.  We started house hunting and talked to the credit union about house loans.  We did a day trip to a most marvellous part of Washington state and then took our visitors to it and around in a loop through Winthrop and Leavenworth and across highway 2 and then went back again!  Highway 20 is absolutely fantastic!  We can't go up it now, not all the way across because it is winter and the road is closed until the melt starts and the ploughs can go up and clear it.  My voice still wasn't good - it was better but not normal and I still couldn't walk and talk.

This un needs to be big!  So glorious!

November 2013

My birthday.  I actually managed to have a party!  People even came to it!  It was lovely!  We did one last trip up Highway 20 and discovered a most amazing stink - in part the dyeing salmon and in part the unopened ranch dressing in some vegies I had bought to snack on.  Autumn effectively finished, sneaking out in a series of dull grey days and I started work on the biggest quilt I've ever made.  Oh and we bought a house.  A little cute wee house.

Have to have one sunset shot!


December 2013

I finished my biggest quilt ever in time to submit it for the binary quilt challenge at my local guild.  The big thing for the month though was moving!  ARGH!  Painting.  ARGH!  OMG, why do I do this to myself?  Christmas was good but I ended up with a cold and that slowed things down a bit.  Still, I did a slap up meal for nine people - roast pork and vegies, with lamingtons for afters - and we managed to fit them all into our little house and everyone went away with a full, happy belly so I consider that a WIN!  And it snowed.  Snowed!  Here!  So pretty for about three hours.  Probably the perfect snow :-)

Part of my biggest ever quilt.

Snow on our deck!

Last sunset of 2013.  Tata!

Wishing you all a fab 2014.  May it be your best year yet.